An admitted shoe geek waxes philosophical about running, triathlon, and life in general.
Comments welcome!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Enjoy the Silence

Some days it's nice to just get out and enjoy the silence and solitude.

Today was one of those days, getting out on my mountain bike on a beautiful but cold day on some new terrain.

This past summer I took a long lunchtime ride that had be skirting the roads just east of Joint Base Lewis McChord, looking at a lot of empty land with occasional dirt roads leading in, and thinking it would be great for a gravel ride. I looked at maps and satellite imagery, and started planning a large loop. I asked people who I ran into that might know about how accessible that land was (and how likely it would be that I'd be shot at or end up in a military prison). 

All indications were that it would be okay, but that given military exercises were often done on this land, I'd have to pay attention to any signs warning of unexploded ordnance.

So when the weather forecast said that today would be clear, no chance or rain, and I just happened to have this week off for holiday, it provided the perfect opportunity.

I loaded up the car in 26 degree temps, and headed out.

At 9:00 I hit the trail, or gravel road actually, the first several miles siding along the paved road and then turning into the woods. As the miles ticked by, I found myself breaking out into clearings, meadows hundreds of acres vast.

With the cold, my water bottles quickly got slushy. Having to stop often to check navigation (and having to restart Cuesheet each time) added a significant amount of time to the ride. And even though there was little in the way of elevation change, I was wishing I'd gone slightly lower with my gearing on the single speed. But none of that dampened the enjoyment of the ride. Sun, nice gravel, seeing only 3 other people the entire ride (and they were training their hunting dogs). 

There were only two points where I needed to portage around large pools of icy water. And only one point where I had to re-route when the road I'd mapped crossed a stream. Had this been summer with temperatures in the 80's instead of freezing, I might have ridden through it. I back-tracked to a bridge, and re-joined my route, not missing much mileage.

Sometimes you run into unexpected things out in these areas. The sad part is that I could always tell when I was getting close to the paved roads - dumped trash.

My choice of going with a monster-cross bike might have been overkill, but I had no idea what I was going to run into on this route. Next time I'll ride the 'cross bike.

And there WILL be a next time. I don't think I touched 10% of the gravel roads that lace this area.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

CL100CXTTWC -- a bike race parody for charity

As the end of the year approaches, and things surrounding Christmas ramp up, it's easy to get busy and set some things aside. You may have noticed a dearth of posts to this journal over the last month or two. Well, that's exactly what happened.

But this past weekend I participated in an event that will now be on my annual calendar for as long as it's run.

CL100CXTTWC -- the Craigs List $100 Cyclocross Time Trial World Championships.

Put together by Russell Clark, a local rider who I became acquainted with through Strava KOMs, it was an outgrowth of his desire to put on a fun event, and to make a difference.

The idea is this: Get a bike on Craigs List, and make it rideable, all for less than $100, race it time-trial style on a cyclocross course (in this case it was about 5.6 miles), then donate the bike to Bike Works of Seattle. Yes, you could ride your own bike instead of donating, but that would require a cash donation entry fee and also disqualify you from the actual "championships". The emphasis was, by far, more on HAVING a good time than POSTING a good time.

I gave Russell a little help with some logistics, course marking, and start/finish line adornments, but all the real footwork, planning, and contacting were all his.

I perused Craigs List several times, at one point contacting a seller of a MTB single speed conversion (who then informed me that he was only available for a couple hours A WEEK to come take a look). Well, when my wife decided that she wouldn't be able to ride the event (due to work schedules and kiddie care issues), her steed became my ride for the day. A 38lb Huffy Storm, with platform pedals, steel rims, stamped steel "slowers" (it would be a disservice to call them brakes)...

Race day dawned clear and cool, though for December it was a perfect day, as we gathered at Ft. Steilacoom Park in Lakewood, WA.

It was entertaining seeing the variety of bikes ridden on the day. Everything from basket-festooned cruisers to banana-seat stingrays, old road bikes, bmx b
ikes, and of course mountain bikes. Mostly ill-fitting.

I was fourth from last to go off, as I'd registered fairly early. Which meant there were a lot of people to pass, and only a few that could pass me.


I did pass one rider, on a road cruiser with basket. Two of the riders behind me (including
Russell, who started last) did pass me. It didn't matter one whit. I was having a blast fighting the heavy bike up the hills, remounting after a particularly steep section and completely missing the saddle, and riding off the course when the "slowers" failed to slow the bike enough for me to negotiate a narrow chicane.

I have no idea where I finished, time wise. Because it doesn't even matter.

The event brought in 38 bikes (plus some parts, and no, they didn't fall off the bikes) and $350 cash donations. Russel stated many times that he was proud and humbled that so many people responded so enthusiastically to his zany idea, and that so much good came out of it.

And it's already set for next year -- December 15, first rider off at 9:30 AM. I'll be there. Let the Craigs List cruising begin!